Nicalas Fernandes '23 competing in the African Olympic Qualification Tournament for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as a member of the Cape Verde Olympic Taekwondo Team.

First year student Nicalas Fernandes ’23, a member of the Cape Verde Olympic Taekwondo Team, recently returned from traveling with his team to Rabat, Morocco, where he competed at the African Olympic Qualification Tournament for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. While he didn’t qualify, there is still a chance for him to be chosen as a wild card entry. We caught up with Nicalas to learn more about his journey. 

What was your experience like in Morocco for the African Qualification Tournament?

Nicalas: Going to a tournament or competition is always a learning experience for me. Because of my age, I only had roughly a year and a half to prepare and tally up world ranking points for the 2020 Olympics, where most athletes have four years to prepare.

How did you initially get started with taekwondo?

Nicalas: I was already involved with martial arts – I am a black belt in shotokan karate, which I started at the age of 6. I switched to taekwondo at the age of 10, as I was referred to start training with the past head taekwondo Olympic coach of Cape Verde, Master Pina. 

We heard you were honored by the Mayor of your hometown, Brockton, MA! What was that like?

Nicalas: I felt honored to get recognized for my hard work. It was special to receive the citation from the first Cape Verdean/African American mayor of Brockton, Moises Rodrigues. I’ve known him since I was very young. 

What is the Nicalas Fernandes Foundation?

Nicalas: My foundation is a nonprofit organization partnered with Sabura Youth Programs Inc. that helps inner city youth around the world. We have already helped rebuild an orphanage in Mozambique after they were hit by a cyclone and lost everything. We have also helped families in Cape Verde. We are in the process of setting up a scholarship for a graduating high school student at Brockton High School. We are also planning to help pay for youth memberships at various locations of the Boys and Girls Club and YMCA. 

How do you balance school and training?

Nicalas: It’s hard just like everything else. My mom checks in with me to make sure I have all my work completed – I understand why she does it. 

What is your advice for other Olympic hopefuls?

Nicalas: Keep trying and never give up on your dreams. No matter how many times you face failure always get back up and keep trying. 

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